Sleeping Bags vs Blankets or Doonas

cold_sleepingAfter a recent post, we got this email from Kerry and Ron, who – as you will see – spent a freezing night in their caravan, and hastily started looking at their caravan bedding.

“Question for you, need opinions….at Cooma it was -10’, we froze. We expected cool/cold, but not this!  We bought another blanket the next day and also updated our heater. That solved the problem of heating the van, but what to do re blankets. We have single beds, and cant really pile any more blankets on, every time I(we) move the blankets slide off…its all very annoying.   What are your thoughts on sleeping bags?  We have heard that it does get cold o/night in lots of places, so, we are wondering if it might be the better thing to do. Can you offer your thoughts on this? Has anyone has spoken to about this before?”

Perfect question for a blog post! Sure, we can give our opinion – but we’d love readers to give theirs, as well.

Tucked in the drawer under Rob’s bed in the caravan is his sleeping bag – the same one he took with him when he walked the Overland Track in Tasmania. When he slides into it, he’s as warm as toast. He rarely needs to use it, because we tend to choose destinations/time of year to avoid extremes of heat and cold – and mostly, our doonas do the trick.

It’s probably worth mentioning, too, that Rob has years of sleeping-bag use behind him. He’s been a scout (is also a Queen’s Scout); has attended Outward Bound, and also ran an outdoor education business with a partner – more camping, trekking, abseiling, kayaking, etc etc. He grew up in Bathurst, so lots of scout camps were cold. 

Me? I’ve never slept in a tent in my life. I tried a sleeping bag, and didn’t like it; I felt like a mummy. (And getting up in the middle of the night to go to the loo was a pain, having to unzip a sleeping bag first.)

So I guess it’s not only a matter of whether sleeping bags keep you warmer (they do) but whether you like sleeping in one. Perhaps I’d change my mind if I bought a larger sleeping bag, with more room to twist and turn?

Anyway, here’s what Rob the I-like-sleeping-bags-man says: Yes, a sleeping bag will keep you warm. His top tips: buy a good-quality sleeping bag. Go for down-filled, and one that compresses well – you want it to be light-weight and to roll up into as small a package as possible. You’ll find that there are different ratings on sleeping bags according to the climate you’ll be using it for.

We have a range of warm coverings in the van, and we pack the van before a trip according to the expected weather conditions:

  • A lightweight padded polyester comforter (the kind that doesn’t require a quilt cover)
  • A slightly heavier down-filled doona (or quilt, whatever term you use) – we don’t like too much weight
  • Two lightweight throws that add just enough warmth for the early hours of the morning if it’s mostly warm enough for just a sheet. We also use these to throw over our knees when watching TV at night or outside if it gets cooler when sitting around chatting. 

If we know we’ll be expecting a range of weather conditions, and are heading for cooler country, then rather than taking up precious storage space with bulky bed coverings, we put both doonas on the bed. We simply sleep ON one and use the other on top.

Another option that we haven’t tried, that I heard about only recently, are the electric throw blankets (see this post).

All comments gratefully received!


Sleeping Bags vs Blankets or Doonas — 14 Comments

  1. When in Canberra, -6 deg, we bought 2 same brand and rating sleeping bags. Made one big bag by unzipping and joining bags together. More room to move and warm as toast. Best thing we ever did.

    • Thanks guys. Question: how much room is there in that double bag – and how easy is it to get in and out of???? (Thinking of those middle-of-the-night loo trips again…)

  2. I must admit we got caught out last year down Bright with a freezing night in the Van. We bought a lambswool underlay for the mattress to sleep on and a thermal queen size blanket (to compliment our other blanket(s)). Fixed the problem immediately for us! The thermal blankets are quite generous in size so if you needed to tuck it in under the mattress you wouldn’t have the problem of losing it during the night.

    Good luck and stay warmmmmmmm

    Chris and Pauline

    • Yes, tucking in is a biggie… I forgot to say that I tuck the doona tight on the bottom corners so it doesn’t move! That lambswool underlay sounds like a good idea – we have one here at home, and they’re good for all weathers. Hmmmm.

  3. Forget too many bed coverings and go for a decent heater. We have used our diesel just on low overnight and it really kept the chill off and it did not have to run hard in the morning to really heat the van.

    We tend to go away in the cooler months because attractions are not so busy and the choice of camp sites that are not overcrowded suits us.

    I realise a diesel heater is a big investment but as we mostly independent camp, it has definitely paid for itself,

  4. We have sleeping bags which are rated to -5 and we have them zipped together and they are warm as toast. I have found I need to keep my side unzipped because it can get to warm. We do have lighter sleeping bags for the warmer weather. BUT as we are looking at buying a 5thWheeler to tour and live in we will have to look at the options of sleeping bags versus doonas

    • That was one of the things I was wondering about, actually – the needs of two different people climate-wise! I get cold faster than Rob. Keep us posted about that Fifth Wheeler – that sounds interesting.

  5. Links, not really. We have an Eberspacher which we purchased through EBay and Wayne did the installation himself. We got the one outlet one as we did not feel we needed the two in our van. It is installed under the bed and, no, we don’t hear any ticking which some people say happens with theirs. The fuel tank is in the front boot.

    Life with a diesel heater really is wonderful and allows for colder clime travelling.

  6. Marg you can now get gas heaters saves you carrying desiel in the caravan, and you already have 2 gas bottles on board so no extra wait for fuel. My wife has 2 different weight doonas for the different seasons which keeps us warm.

    • I’ve seen a butane gas heater for free camping advertised… but sounds like you mean a heater that taps into the gas bottles.
      Any problems from the fumes?

  7. Hi Marg,we have ‘bitten the bullet’ and bought sleeping bags. Went to outdoor places, armed with measurements of our single bed, have got bags -5′. We are going to sleep in them one of these nights soon. We just couldnt handle the thought of weight from blankets, and are thinking re heaters… we also considered heavier weight doona for winter (as we do at home) these bags also pack so small that also helped us to decide. Anyway, we shall see…. good travelling….Kerry

    • Great! Give us some feedback as soon as you’ve had a chance to try them out. I hear it’s snowing at Kosciusko now… why don’t you pay a visit and see how they work? LOL

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